The Boston Celtics took more than two minutes to score, and when they did, their first two points were the result of a bogus foul call. An off-balance Kevin Garnett jump shot bounded off the backboard and almost smacked Mickey Mouse, chilling on his couch down in Florida, more than 1,000 miles away, straight between the eyes, but Garnett was sent to the foul line and made both free throws. At least the Celtics were on the board.
It would take another two minutes before Ray Allen made Boston’s first field goal, a welcome sight to any Boston fan still watching the hideous affair. By the time four minutes remained in the first quarter, James Johnson was outscoring Boston by himself, 8-7. By that time, Johnson had improbably stripped Rajon Rondo and garnered a wide open layup for teammate Jose Calderon, Ray Allen had fallen flat on his face trying to sprint around a screen, leading to another wide open Calderon layup, and the Raptors had scored more points via dunks and layups than the Celtics had scored total.
A minute after Johnson slammed home a fast break dunk to give himself an 8-7 lead against the entire Boston roster, Doc Rivers called two timeouts within a span of eight seconds. After the second one — and I’m guessing what he said here; all I could make out was a couple f-bombs — he threatened to kill all his players’ children and stomp on their testicles. It was the maddest anyone has ever seen Rivers, and his players deserved every cuss word he shouted their way.
Two minutes after Rivers’ outburst, he inserted Avery Bradly into the lineup. Bradley was not even supposed to play due to a sore shoulder, and he scored just three points in the first half, notching zero assists compared to two turnovers. Still, his heart ticked like it should, and his pressure defense briefly righted the upside-down world and put Boston back into control. The Celtics were soon down just six points, and would trail by seven, 41-34, at halftime.
Boston’s halftime replenishment of fluids might have included a dash of Ativan, for the Celtics returned from the locker room with glossed over eyes and spittles of drool dripping from their mouths. Offensive possessions mostly consisted of nothing more than a couple passes and a desperation shot to beat the shot clock buzzer, and defensive possessions were an evolved form of hide-and-go-seek during which the Celtics tried their best not to reveal their location to the Raptors. Often, a Raptors offensive rebound extended the pain and suffering beyond the normal 24-second limit.
It’s tough to tell whether Rajon Rondo was dizzy, drunk, ill or simply asleep, but his stat line with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter read “three points, two assists, five turnovers, 1-5 shooting, -20 plus-minus,” and eyes told observers it was a lot worse. The Raptors led 61-45 at that point, and Rondo’s team seemed to follow his comatose lead. In my notes, I wrote, “It’s well past time for Avery Bradley.” This is what it had come to, hoping the two-time All-Star would be subbed out for a career 39.4 percent shooter.
At some point during the third quarter, Kevin Garnett responded to a Toronto heckler by calling him “fat boy.” Boston then switched to a 2-3 zone, normally Rivers’ desperation ploy when his Celtics cannot quell another team’s momentum, but perhaps a punishment for their absent effort tonight. The Celtics entered the fourth quarter trailing 63-51. It felt worse. Bradley remained stapled to the bench. I imagine his shoulder must have acted up. There was no other reason for him to sit. He was the only Celtic whose body and mind both arrived in Toronto. I pondered whether to pour bleach into my eyeballs or spray paint my retinas.
Rondo finally showed vital signs in the fourth quarter. First he dished an assist to Marquis Daniels, then he earned a technical foul. The latter was the most vibrant he’d been all night. It was almost nice to see a little emotion. I switched the channel during a commercial. Jeremy Lin, with a band-aid flying off his chin, was really hurting the Los Angeles Lakers. I smiled. I think it was the first time all night.
The Celtics cut the lead to nine with just more than six minutes remaining. I tried not to get my hopes up. Linas Kleiza answered with a wide open three five seconds later. The Celtics cut it to eight points three minutes after that. Kleiza drilled another triple. This was not Boston’s night.
Boston pounded Toronto 100-64 during their last meeting. Either back-to-backs are lethal, Toronto’s home court advantage is the world’s greatest or Jermaine O’Neal’s young legs were missed.